November 30, 2005

Sample the Torrent in "BlawgWorld 2006" just published online

It has been said that thousands of new "weblogs" launch every day, and many of them are now legal "blogs" or "blawgs." As practitioners join academics in creating content and their writings become more specialized, they become potentially valuable to you.

Even with nifty tools like Really Simple Syndication (RSS), this is a firehose torrent that is harder and harder to sample. So ... TechnoLawyer has taken a stab at a selection of postings from 51 legal bloggers and published it in a book you can download now if you are a member of TechnoLawyer. If you are not a member, you can get it anyway if you join (free) online at this link: TechnoLawyer: Product reviews and other helpful legal technology and practice management information

Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, one of my postings is included in the selection.

Posted by dougsimpson at 08:28 PM

November 28, 2005

Academics Experimenting With Virtual Worlds

"Virtual Worlds" started out as bare-bones text-based fantasy environments or MUDs ("Multi-User Dungeons") populated by a few geekish techies, but have come a long way. As they have developed in complexity and support from entrepreneurs and commercial game companies, they've attracted an increasing following from those unable to tell a string of pearls from a script of perl. Increasingly, the attention is coming from academic scholars in the fields of law and economics.

(read more)

Edward Castronova, an economics professor at Indiana University, has written several articles on the synthetic economies that emerged from MMORPGs such as EverQuest. Edward Castronova - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. His 2001 article on the synthetic economy of the virtual world of Norrath, SSRN-Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier by Edward Castronova (2001), has been downloaded over 32 thousand times and examines an economy that he estimates to be larger than the GNP of Bulgaria, despite its totally virtual existence.

Robert Shapiro, Undersecretary of Commerce in President Clinton's administration, in 2003 wrote for Slate how he was impressed by the fascination of economists with such virtual worlds and with the apparent lack of need for a powerful government in the development of Norrath Fantasy Economics - Why economists are obsessed with online role-playing games. By Robert Shapiro (Slate 2003).

Second Life is one of the leading platforms for a these Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game or "MMORPG" - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Since June of 2005, its population has grown from some 30,000 "citizens" to 90,000 as of this posting. Unlike other MMORPGs, Second Life has opened its platform up to citizen creation, enabling its citizens to design and create a visually rich environment and to "own" their own individual village-sized parcels of virtual "land."

This freedom has also led to increased creativity in the more ugly aspects of freedom ... harassment, abuse and land grabs, leading to and virtual warfare between adjoining virtual territories with conflicting interests. Which have been followed by a growing "third estate" of journalists and bloggers dedicated to following the self-organization in Second Life. See, e.g., The Second Life Herald: Essay: A History of the Second Jessie War (Sep. 17, 2004). Some of these have addressed the ongoing controversy between those adamantly opposed to group organization and those finding it an essential response to "griefers." Gwyneth Llewelyn: "Roots of Self-Organization Are Grafting in SL" (June 15, 2005).

Virtual worlds are now turning up as topics of serious university courses, with syllabi like those discussed at Terra Nova: Virtual Worlds 101: Draft Syllabus (Aug. 26, 2004).

Providing grist for thought leaders like Yale Law's Jack Belkin "Virtual Liberty: Freedom to Design and Freedom to Play in Virtual Worlds (90 Va.L.Rev. 2043, Dec. 2004).

They are spurring entrepreneurs to experiment with virtual investment banks and stock exchanges. Terra Nova: After currency (August 2, 2004).

Internet Week brings us more up to date with a look at the creation of Democracy Island in Second Life, as a project of NYU Law's Institute for Information Law and Policy. InternetWeek | Online Virtual World Is Part Fantasy, Part Civics Experiment. (Nov. 8, 2005)

I suspect that we're just beginning to scratch the surface of the potential of complex virtual worlds as experimental laboratories for law and economics scholars, especially as they become large and complex enough to more closely simulate the real complexities of large human interaction systems.

Posted by dougsimpson at 01:31 PM

November 19, 2005

FEMA, out of funds, freezes flood insurance payments

USA Today reports that FEMA has suspended payments of flood insurance claims until the Congress approves more funding. Those "Write Your Own" insurers that are adjusting claims have limited lines of credit and may choose not to front funds on their own credit. - FEMA halts flood insurance payments

Marc Mayerson, in Insurance Scrawl, has collected a few cases pertinent to the cash crunch, which has serious consequences on those awaiting flood insurance settlements. Insurance Scrawl: Stranded without Recourse: FEMA Halts Payment of Flood-Insurance Claims

Events like this may bring home the reality of federally-subsidized insurance that encourages development in disaster-prone areas. Debate over long term cost/benefit will be healthy, but is not likely to be calm or detached.

This development is also likely to aggravate the controversy over efforts to override flood exclusions in conventional windstorm policies.

Posted by dougsimpson at 11:03 AM

Insurance Capacity Shrinks -- Prices Go Up -- New Capital Attracted

Risk Prof provides some insights and useful links to theoretical models explaining insurance price increases resulting from Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Capacity constriction and costs of raising new capital suggest that existing insurers will pull back and build capital internally. At the same time, new capital is emerging in new reinsurers, some backed by hedge funds.

Though insurance consumers and their elected representatives are likely to be unhappy, this looks like the capitalist system at work. RiskProf : Explaining Price Increases Post-Katrina

Posted by dougsimpson at 09:30 AM

November 18, 2005

Beth Noveck on "Democracy of Groups"

In Cairns Blog: Democracy of Groups, Beth Noveck alerts us to her new First Monday paper, in which she makes two central claims, acording to her blog and the paper's abstract:

"First, technology will enable more effective forms of collective action. This is particularly so of the emerging tools for "collective visualization" which will profoundly reshape the ability of people to make decisions, own and dispose of assets, organize, protest, deliberate, dissent and resolve disputes together. From this argument derives a second, normative claim. We should explore ways to structure the law to defer political and legal decision–making downward to decentralized group–based decision–making. This argument about groups expands upon previous theories of law that recognize a center of power independent of central government: namely, the corporation. If we take seriously the potential impact of technology on collective action, we ought to think about what it means to give groups body as well as soul — to "incorporate" them. This paper rejects the anti–group arguments of Sunstein, Posner and Netanel and argues for the potential to realize legitimate self–governance at a "lower" and more democratic level. The law has a central role to play in empowering active citizens to take part in this new form of democracy."

"A democracy of groups" (First Monday, November 2005)

Posted by dougsimpson at 05:14 AM

November 03, 2005

Pandemic Flu Information Sources

The official U.S. government website for information on pandemic flu and avian influenza includes links to the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza, published by the White House, and the U.S. HHS Pandemic Influenza Plan, along with related links. Pandemic Flu Website.

Posted by dougsimpson at 08:14 AM